By Abir Bassam

Biden-Putin summit: A meeting or setting red lines

June 26, 2021 - 17:49

No one could be holding its breath expecting important outcomes from the summit between the two presidents: Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin. 

Since the meeting was declared, the American politicians have been trying to minimize its effect in changing the relationship between the two countries. 

The initiated invitation by Biden to the summit was forwarded in April. It was also assigned the date on the 16th of June, after the G7 summit. A date that President Putin's accepted with an open mind without reluctance, which shows a lot of goodwill in order to stop the rivalry between the two nuclear-armed powers in the world. However, Biden’s choice of timing was loaded with messages that he made sure to be sent.

The summit was arranged after Biden’s European tour. It revolved around the relationship between the United States and its European "allies". He started by visiting the European Union headquarters; then he went to the NATO headquarters in Brussels; afterward, Biden went to the G7 summit in Britain, the Group of Seven major industrial countries. 

Before heading to the B-P summit in Geneva, Biden tweeted: "On my first foreign trip, we’re going to make it clear- the United States and the democracies of the world are standing together to tackle the challenges of our new age." Biden also explained clearly that his aim was to break the years of isolation caused by Trump.

Biden's declared goal of the tour is clear, but at this stage, the undeclared goal is the most important, especially after the objections made by important members of Congress, including Democrats, to the Biden-Putin summit [B-P summit]. The tour sent messages of support from American allies. They were messages of defiance to Russia, saying that America is not alone and that it trusts its strong military alliance with allies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the arrival of Biden to the White House gave a "new momentum" to the G7 work.

One of Biden’s most important messages explained that the West is united against China, in particular towards the Chinese increasing progress in space and military programs, the construction of a "fourth" aircraft carrier, and China’s "practices against human rights" in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Of course, sending threats did not work with China that sent back a clear message of refuting any kind of threats, and that the West needs to contain its disappointment as a new world order is being born.

Consequently, the G7 announced initiating a global plan that challenges the Chinese “One Belt, One Road” project under the title of “Comprehensive Strategy Network.” The G7’s new strategy aims to develop infrastructure in poor and developing countries. However, China has already signed investment contracts in several countries around the world, in particular with Russia and Iran. 

The United States undoubtedly enjoys sending messages of sensed danger imposed on it by any alliance developed between China and Russia, or by the deep friendship between the two neighboring countries. However, the matter gets worse with the Iranian alliance with two of the world's largest countries. The alliance was broadened to reach the field of commerce, industry, and military cooperation.

 Consequently, the assumption that Biden was trying to penetrate the Russian and the Chinese alliance through the meeting with Putin, and accordingly cooperation with Iran, is meaningful. This can be read through the questions that the NBC anchor, Keir Simmons, addressed to Putin, a day before the summit. Keir raised America’s fears of China, which is building its naval military power. In principle, NBC’s anchor’s attempts to impose the American fears of the rising Chinese power have failed. The same tactic was repeated in his questions about Russia’s concerns about sharing the space program information with Iran, or whether Russia would involve Iran in this program or not. 

Alas, the questions in the interview seemed to be an attempt to raise the Russian president’s concerns about the Iranian threat. The anchor’s attempt was to confront Putin before the meeting with issues like direct accusations of human rights violations and control of foreign agencies. However, President Putin explained the American hypocrisy in addressing such issues. Putin compared the “Foreign Agents Law” in Russia, which was inspired by the same law in the United States. The law deals with Russian humanitarian organizations funded by foreign countries. He also referred to the law of foreign agents that deal with foreign news agencies operating in the United States. Nonetheless, when the anchor harassed Putin with repeated questions of the same previous sort and interruptions, Putin said: "You don't like my answers and you keep interrupting me, which is inappropriate! The law is in America and it operates strictly. Countries should not comment on other countries policies. You do not like my answer and you do not want your audience to hear it. Is it freedom of expression or freedom of expression in your own way?!”

In another response, Putin compared the American political ideals with the ideals of the ultimate hero in the American movies, by which they were accordingly systematic. Simmons is supposed to be an American professional and distinguished media person; sarcastically, his performance was on a high level of idiocy and arrogance. The requirements of the interview were obvious. It was set to emulate the B-P summit and to transfer the American fears and requirements, especially those related to space armament, nuclear armament, and cyberwar.  Simmons’s questions suggested that the danger of cyberwar endangers only American’s security that the whole world needed to protect. The main goal of it, according to NBC’s anchor, is "to sabotage the American way of life." In fact, this is a stand-alone justification, which is used as an American excuse in any war, invasion, or hostility to any other country in the world.

Of course, many issues had been raised before the summit, but many Russian red lines were drawn before it. These included the special relationship with China and Iran, the status in Libya and Syria, and the situation in Ukraine and Belarus. Topics Biden believes that it should follow the American will. Clearly, the main American concern revolves around military cooperation with Iran and Syria. This is not related to Iran’s military, industrial, and technical development, but rather related to the future of these technologies and its access to Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Palestinian resistance, and the Houthis in Yemen. In other words, one of the hidden goals of the meeting is to ensure Israel's security.

What Biden wanted, through the joint summit, is to "build a stable relationship" that takes into account American interests. However, Russia also has its own interests. Before arriving for the meeting, Putin had set red lines. No one will know what exactly happened during the first two hours between the two men, and no one will unless leaks start to reveal the secrets in the last two and a half hours when the two foreign ministers joined the B&P summit later on. 

It won't be long before we sense the results of the summit, which defines new rules of the game in the world. During his press conference, Biden assured the journalists that Russia and the U.S. did not enter a new era of the Cold War, but in fact, the summit came to announce the beginning of a new one. Moreover, prior to the meeting, files and arrangements had already been agreed on, and wait to be officially announced.

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